I am a huge fan of the work that Laura Danger does on TikTok to help us all to eliminate toxic behavior in the form of Weaponized Incompetence, where (mostly) men use their insufficient skill at emotional labor, domestic labor, or any other perceived “women’s work” in order to justify their actions. I watch many of the videos and think to myself, well at least I don’t make my wife and partner plan her own Mother’s Day celebration or I am responsibly for the vast majority of the dishes and laundry, so I couldn’t possibly employ Weaponized Incompetence.
But it isn’t true.
I still fall prey to the lure of “easy” and of “blaming someone else for my own shortcomings.” The latest example of this comes from just last week when I was caring for my three children while my wife was away for work. I was feeling pretty good about my parenting that week. I scheduled a couple of play dates for my youngest. I took my oldest out to lunch and we discussed some important life milestones that are just on the horizon and made sure he got to multiple work shifts as a camp counselor at the local rec center. My middle child only needed a few rides to and from friend’s houses, but I did those too without complaint or requiring anything from my wife.
And yet, I missed a key bit of care that I really should have been able to catch. In preparation for my youngest’s all day camp and the nature center, I made sure he had sun screen, a hat, and a bottle of water. What I didn’t realize was that an all day camp would require lunch and that it would not be provided for. It was only when I picked him up that I realized my mistake and had to embarrassingly ask about what he ate. Fortunately, the ranger’s wife had brought extra food and it was provided for my child.
On the one hand, this was an innocent mistake. I did not intentionally neglect my child’s needs. And yet, that explanation isn’t sufficient. I sent my child to a camp for 7 hours and expected him to be provided for. Not only this, but I ended up weaponizing my incompetence so much that it somehow became someone else’s wife’s problem that I didn’t pack a lunch. And when my wife came home and we discussed it, I had the gall to suggest that the information about what I should pack for a full day camp should have been in our shared calendar event.
So, let’s unpack all that, shall we! I was ashamed of my mistake, embarrassed by my lack of forethought. I tried to justify it to myself that others should have told me. It was the fault of the ranger for not relaying the message in an email ahead of time or when I dropped him off. I further excused it because I was doing it all on my own that week, and I did all of the “other things” right. I often do this when I forget a water bottle or am a few minutes late for something. I did “so much else right” so why is it such a big deal that I got this part wrong.
It is wrong because I’m using my own privilege as someone who has been cared for his entire life to justify behavior that a full-grown man should not be proud of. I often think that natural consequences are the best things for improving yourself. And yet, I could feel myself trying wriggle out of them as I explained away my mistake. They only work if I sit in the embarrassment and the failed responsibility of caring for my children. It only gets better if I understand that I SHOULD know that it isn’t on other people to pack a lunch for my child. It only gets better if I take all of the weight of the decision to leave for camp before I fully thought through what my son would need for the day.
And so, while I respect the important work Laura Danger is doing to call out others for their choices to pull far less weight than a true partnership requires. I recognize that it is far more important for me to do the work of looking deeply at my own decisions and see how I am placing my own load onto others, letting them carry what I ought to. I can and will do better about thinking ahead for what is needed in a given day and making sure that I am not making my lack of forethought someone else’s problem to solve.
This has been Excising my Toxic Behavior with the Masculinity Detox.